Constituting the largest data set of contaminants found in Pacific lamprey habitat and tissue, the research found that concentrations of some flame retardants and pesticides were several hundred times higher in larval and juvenile lamprey tissues than in the surrounding sediments. Using samples from the Umatilla River basin, Willamette River basin, the Yakima River basin, and other Columbia River tributaries, this new study provides insight into the bioaccumulation of toxics in lamprey and their likely impacts on lamprey development from larvae to adults.
“The levels of contaminants we are seeing in larval lamprey have caused developmental problems in salmonids in other studies,” said Dr. Elena Nilsen, principal investigator on the study. “That is concerning to us.”
Pacific lamprey are integral to ecosystem health. They provide valuable subsistence resources to tribal communities, bring important marine nutrients into freshwater areas, and serve as a buffer against the predation of juvenile salmon and steelhead by sea lions, terns, and other predators by providing an alternate food source.
“We can no longer ignore the role of water quality in the health of our fish populations and our communities,” said Carlos Smith, chairman for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and tribal council member for the Warm Springs Tribe. “These recent findings only highlight the urgency to clean up our rivers and streams.”
The research was the result of a multiagency effort. Numerous tribes and state and federal entities contributed to the work.